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Ketones to the Rescue

Fashioning therapies from an adaptation to starvation

By
5:15pm, December 7, 2003

In times of plenty, both the mind and the body thrive. But deprived of basic sustenance, the mind perishes before the body does. That's not New Age philosophy; it's basic metabolic chemistry. While most of the body manages food shortages with relative ease, the tissues of the brain are vulnerable during periods of scarcity. So when blood sugar dips, the brain must fall back on special biochemistry to meet its energy needs. From studying that metabolic back-up system, a coterie of scientists has drawn inspiration that could lead to a new treatment for conditions as diverse as epilepsy, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, and heart failure.

Most of the time, the body makes its fundamental fuel, glucose, from ingested carbohydrates. With each meal, the bloodstream gets replenished with glucose to replace the blood sugar that hungry cells have consumed to satisfy their metabolic needs. The body can't store glucose well, yet cells must be fed continually. So the body puts away extra en

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